The following three-part post series is based on true events that happened to me at 24 years old. At the time, I was not yet formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. I didn’t receive a formal diagnosis until I was 32 years old. I had, however, sought help earlier in my youth for depression, anxiety and what I now know were bipolar mixed episodes. This series of posts describes hypomania, mania, and depression half across the world.
After a grievous breakup from my very first love, I had to make the necessary arrangements to plan a new chapter in my life. It was clear that I could not stay with him for more than a few more weeks. I didn’t want to remain in California or return home to New Jersey. Since I had studied Mandarin Chinese in college, it was logical that I would want to improve my language skills in an actual Chinese-speaking nation. With a little research, I found a good job opportunity teaching English to children in Taiwan. Far, far away. That’s how far I felt I needed to go to separate myself from Mihai.
The application process for a job teaching English in Taiwan was a quick one for me. Within a few weeks, I got the proper paperwork needed for a work visa to teach at Hess Language Institute.
My job in Taichung, Taiwan was teaching small children. Honestly, that was a less than ideal fit for me. My apologies, but I never really liked children and was not good at interacting with them. That fact together with grieving the loss of my boyfriend, and partial shock from the abrupt move to a foreign land, caused my equilibrium to deteriorate rather quickly into a manic phase. Manic, as in bipolar disorder mania. My energy increased three or more fold. I was walking to and from the job, two hours at a shot, more than once per day. At night, I’d go out with Taiwanese friends to local dance pubs and dance for hours, drinking all the while. Once, I went to a place and danced probably between 9 pm and 5 am. I lost about 20 lbs in three months without dieting. After each night at a club or pub, I’d find some miscellaneous guy to take me home, since my friends had left hours before. Most of them were more concerned than sinful-minded, despite or maybe because my acting wild all night. Of course, I also had a few close calls with guys who had crazy ideas, such as when a handsome Italian drove me in his top down Camaro to a major multi-lane highway, where we got out and made out on the grassy median between the northbound and southbound traffic. Another time, I took a wild motorcycle ride at what seemed like 100 mph. Luckily, I managed to prevent each from coming up to my apartment, but the experiences were quite a “ride” all the same. I was completely high with manic elation! During the work day, I struggled to teach properly. My behavior was getting out of hand. I was loud, speaking in a disjointed manner, getting angry at the kids, and once even left the classroom in a tirade. The Chinese assistant teachers complained about me. I received a warning to “tone it down”. Way down.
My mania brought back another typical habit that I grew accustomed to in Berkeley; the routine to self-medicate my moods with alcohol. I even hooked up with a bartender. I saw him a couple of times before he asked me to join him for a trip to Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city in the north. The weekend was coming up, so I happily agreed. Unfortunately, though, it was raining hard the whole time and the fiercely irritable side of my mania showed its face. I bitched and bitched and bitched. I hardly paid any attention to the guy because I was living in my own pissed off world. When it was time to return (still raining) and we found the bus station for the ride back to Taichung, I must have said something that finally pushed his buttons too far, because at that moment I saw him lift his arm as if he were to hit me! Boom! That threat seemed to slap my face even though it was only a threat. I somehow managed to shut my mouth for the whole rest of the time back on the bus, sitting five rows behind him. When I disembarked, I decided I wouldn’t see that potential beater again. No man would ever raise his hand at me! I wasn’t the type of a woman to put up with that kind of crap!
It wasn’t long until my mania seemed to die down. Actually, it was like falling from a mountain, quickly. I was teaching more classes than usual, given teacher shortages. I hated teaching those kids even more as my depression crept in. I started calling out sick almost daily and remember feeling so desperate. Everything seemed to be scary and horrible. To top it off, there was an earthquake, one night. I started feeling totally hopeless. My boss with some other teachers then took me to the hospital. I only vaguely remember the trip and don’t even remember what I said to the doctors, but I do remember returning to my apartment with piles and piles of pills. Each packet seemed to contain at least 10. I forget how long I took them, but soon after, my mood began to switch. I then made a rather abrupt decision to quit the job. I decided to move to Thailand for a while. I was first going to make a stopover in Hong Kong. I needed a change to get me fully out of the slump. I teetered between two extremes. I impulsively ran to shake myself out of the mood state.
My premature departure from the job in Taiwan cost me oodles of money. I paid a stiff penalty for breaking my work contract after only six of the 12 months, and also lost my apartment deposit of three months’ rent. But I didn’t care. Not in the least bit. I was off to explore Asia on my own, away from the crappy job and on to an exciting exploration. I bought an open-ended ticket back to Taiwan for who knows when. I don’t remember even calling my parents in New Jersey to tell them anything about my plans. They never called me. For all they knew, I was still teaching in Taiwan. Actually, I spent a good three months outside of Taiwan with no contact with anyone.